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Employment in the UK

London Tower Bridge

Finding suitable employment in the UK once you have made your decision to emigrate to the UK can be your next step.

Getting your UK visa sorted out is an important part of the process. You can apply for a Highly Skilled Migrant Programme visa if you fit the criteria, or apply for a Tier 2 (General) visa if you’ve been offered a skilled job in the UK. For further information on how the visa system works, look at our Getting a UK Visa page. You can’t get a job in the UK if you don’t have a visa, and while it doesn’t happen often, customs officers do turn people back at the border if they think you’re in the UK looking for work on a tourist visa. Tourist visas are valid for six months only.

Within the UK London is the single most important target location for immigrants. It’s also one of the most competitive jobs markets on the planet and one of the most expensive places to live in Britain. It’s also the home of the country’s most vibrant job market – there are ten jobs in London for every job in Bradfield, Manchester or Blackpool, and the jobs market is currently growing in London even while it contracts in other areas.

If London is your target, do your research. It’s not too early – most of what you learn won’t age in a year or two. The jobs market is less competitive in the North and other regions, but the economy is also less vibrant there and pay is usually lower, something to bear in mind. By sector, the UK economy isn’t a great place to look for heavy industry or manufacturing jobs, but it’s a good place to look for jobs in tech, a booming sector of the economy. London in particular is a good place to take high-level qualifications in biotechnology and life sciences.

While the UK labour market is usually fair and equal opportunities, the most important asset in this market as in any other is a personal network. Using social networks with a strong business slant like LinkedIn and Google+ is a good way to build up a network that can point you towards vacancies you might otherwise have heard of too late or not at all.

Other promising locations for recruitment are the UK’s other major cities, like Liverpool, Leeds and Bristol, Birmingham and Newcastle, as well as Brighton on the south coast. When you’re looking for a job in the UK you’ll need to consider the requirement for the employer that they show there was no EU resident available to do your job. That usually means a skilled job in areas where that particular sector is booming. London leads the field here, too, with expatriates from all over the world drawn and supported by its skill-heavy, diversified jobs market offering numerous roles that most people couldn’t do.

The UK’s local and national newspapers carry ‘want’ ads, with national papers typically advertising for management and professionals while regional and local papers will carry adverts for sales, service and clerical staff as well as skilled manual trades. The Guardian newspaper carries a wider range than most, and different days of the week are dedicated to different job types and markets, but most public sector and large business organizations post skilled jobs there. If you’re a teacher, there’s a specific paper, the Times Literary Supplement (TES) that runs teaching and related staff ads.

Additionally, the UK is well served by work agencies such as Indeed, Monster and the large, varied Reed employment organization, a national Jobsite and regional sites like My Liverpool Jobs. Finally, you can look on sites like Craigslist and Gumtree to see ads.

Many foreign nationals have the advantage of being bilingual or fluent in more than one language, but if one of those languages isn’t English, the UK will be a struggle. If you’re a New Zealander, American, Australian or an Anglophone Canadian, the language differences are minimal and they won’t stand in the way of you getting a job.

When you have a job in the UK you have certain rights as an employee, and certain obligations. You’ll have protection against dismissal if you get pregnant or if you’re sick, and there’s a sliding scale of entitlements based on length of service. After two years, a temporary contract will be treated in law as though it were permanent in most cases, and all rights and benefits apply from that point. The right to protection against unfair dismissal comes into effect after two years, since the law was changed recently.

You have legal protection against discrimination from the second you enter the workplace, however, and discrimination based on a ‘protected characteristic’ like age, race, gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity, religious belief, or disability status.
To find out more about what the law in Britain entitles you to in the workplace, look here.

Typically, if you’re employed and your visa situation is straightforward, your tax situation will be straightforward too. You’ll be on Britain’s PAYE (Pay As You Earn) system, and your tax payments will simply be deducted at source.

If you’re planning to work for yourself, being self-employed in Britain requires a little more involvement in the tax system, depending on your status. If you set up as a sole trader or sole proprietor, tax is a little more complex. Typically you’ll be taxed on profits rather than income, unless your income rises above your tax-free allowance. Business expenditures are tax deductible.

A foreign driving license is valid in the UK for one year. After that, you’ll need a valid full UK driving license. The UK driving test is both harder and more comprehensive than US drivers are used to, and unlike in the US, if you want to drive a stick you’ll need to take your test in one. Public transport is often better than immigrants from the English-speaking world are used to, but it’s quite expensive and can be prone to breakdowns, so if you’re relying on it to get you to work on time, your best choice is a car.

The UK labour market is difficult to get into and the visa requirements are strict, because of the ready availability of EU nationals, so planning ahead is vital to ensuring the success of your employment search and of your move to the UK.